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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Mission Viejo, California 03/09/2008

Two Orange County deputies stood between a mall robber and his desperate bid for freedom.

October 31, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

Operational Mindset

Olszynski recognizes that a variety of factors played to his favor, perhaps none more important than his operational mindset in confronting suspects.

"My attitude is to try to one-up the bad guys," the deputy explains. "If somebody's got a knife, I'll bring my sidearm; if somebody's got a gun, I'll bring the shotgun. In fact, I prefer the Remington-I'm comfortable with it and it's always been my favorite weapon as far as shooting. One is always with me when I do recreational shooting."

The conditioned mindset he'd acquired during a six-year stint in the Marine Corps hadn't hurt, either. But Olszynski notes that it could have.

"We were taught to close the distance and engage the enemy. In one sense, it helped me to be quick. But looking back, once I got between the cars, I should have slowed down; still doing a fairly good pace, but slowing down a bit."

Is there anything else he would have done differently?

"I'd been on patrol (off training) for only a few months," notes Olszynski. "I'd worked with Gary in the jails, but not in a coordinated situation. I didn't know he'd gone off in the opposite direction. I thought he was behind me because he ran up the stairs right behind me. I didn't realize Gary wasn't behind me until I heard him yelling. Looking back, I definitely would have told him to come down the same row of cars with me. Personally, I would have slowed down, too. I was moving pretty quickly because when I saw Knight running, I thought I would see him running out the back of the parking structure. That's why when he suddenly popped out, I found myself caught off guard in the middle of two parking spaces. I didn't have any cover to hide behind if he started shooting right away.

"If I'd slowed down a little bit, it would have still probably ended up the same," Olszynski adds. "But it would have been safer for me, because if I had Gary behind me to keep an eye out for the suspect down range, I probably would have knelt down and looked beneath the cars for the suspect's feet."

Another thing that Olszynski learned during this incident is to make sure your gun is ready to fire during this kind of situation. "I left the shotgun's safety on," reflects Olszynski. "At least I recognized it within a split-second. Had it been off, the whole thing would have been over a lot faster. As it was, nothing happened with the first round I tried to squeeze off because of the safety. How I forgot, I don't know. But I had-and that marred my chance to take him out with a headshot."

The lessons didn't stop there.

"The second thing I definitely should have done is backfill the magazine," Olszynski says. "The way we carry the shotgun in the patrol car is with four in the magazine, chamber empty, safety on-and six more rounds in the side saddle. Once out of the car, I racked a round in, so I had one in the chamber ready to go. But I didn't take advantage of the side saddle shells and was mad at myself because of it. That would have given me one more round to dump. If he had a little more motivation to kill me at that time, it would have taken that motivation out."

Olszynski hopes that other cops might learn from his incident should they find themselves involved in similar confrontations. He and Lewellyn were awarded the Orange County Sheriff's Department's Medal of Valor, and both continue to serve the citizens of Orange County.

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Tags: Shots Fired, Orange County (Calif.) Sheriff, Armed Robbery, Foot Pursuits


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